It’s that time of year when winter gradually turns to spring, and the seed catalog find their way to your mailbox. Now is the time to also involve your children in planning this year’s garden. Start your summer garden by choosing the seeds you will be planting. My daughter enjoys looking through the colorful pages of the seed catalogs–oohing and ahh-ing over beautiful green peas and rainbow colored flowers. Gardening with your children is so much fun! Kids learn not only where their food comes from but also care taking and patience. Plus, research shows that children are more likely to try a new vegetable if they have grown it themselves. Teaching your child a lifelong skill of growing her own food is a very valuable lesson indeed. Having grown vegetables and flowers with my oldest daughter as she grew has instilled a love of growing her own food, and now as a young adult she has her own container garden. My youngest daughter is also well on her way to becoming a master gardener as well at the ripe old age of 4. One of the things I found that parents can do to foster a love of gardening is to chose vegetables that are easy to grow and do not require anything beyond watering and weeding.
Here is a list of 7 easy to grow vegetables for your family’s garden:
Crisp and a little spicy, radishes are a very hardy, cool season vegetable. Radishes need a lot of sun so be sure to plant them where they will not be shaded. Many varieties will germinate within 3-7 days and can be harvested in about 3 to 4 weeks after planting making them very easy to grow. Be sure to pick them when they are ready as the texture of the radish deteriorates after maturity if not. Bonus: The leaves/greens are edible too!
Popeye was definitely on to this super food. Spinach is also a very hardy, cool season crop. Spinach needs about 6 weeks of cool spring weather from germination to harvest. Full of essential vitamins and minerals, spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. Encourage your child to try easy to grow spinach right out of the garden.
There is nothing in the world like a garden tomato! Although technically a fruit, cherry tomatoes are sweet and juicy and easy for small fingers to pick. Many people opt for tomato starts rather than planting tomatoes by seed. Children will learn transplanting from one container to the next or the garden. Provide full sun and lots of water and your plant will yield a bounty of tasty little tomatoes in late summer.
Eh, what’s up doc! Carrots are a must have for gardening with children. Not only do carrot varieties come in orange but also white, yellow, red, and purple! Carrots although easy to grow take up to 70-80 days to mature. This is where teaching your child gardening patience comes into play. Try planting carrot tape to ensure proper spacing and no need for thinning.
Yes please, pass the peas! Peas have been documented as one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world! Coming in many varieties from snow peas to sugar snap peas, your child will enjoy planting this tasty treat. Soil temperature is the deciding factor on how quickly your peas will reach maturity. Raised beds warm faster than the ground so peas planted in a raised bed will make this easy to grow vegetable germinate faster. Teach your child about seed saving by saving a few shelled peas: air dry the peas and save them in a sealed envelope in a cool dark place until next summer.
The almighty zucchini! A very prolific producer of summer squash, this easy to grow, warm season vegetable is also technically a fruit. Most zucchini varieties take about 60 days to maturity. To help stave off over abundance of zucchini fruits, harvest a few flowers from each plant. The edible flower of the zucchini plant is a fun delicacy to share with your child. Do not let zucchini get overly large or the texture becomes pithy inside the squash. Zucchini fruits can grow up to an inch a day so chose one with your child to measure each day until it is ready to harvest.
Have the most sincere pumpkin patch on the block, and plant easy to grow sugar pumpkins with your child! Sugar pumpkins reach maturity after about 110 days when they are orange and 6-8 inches in diameter. Roasted pumpkins can be used in everything from pies to soup. Seeds can also be roasted and enjoyed as a healthy snack.